Jays roll past Southwestern, 87-65

The Tabor College women’s basketball team concluded its pre-holiday play with an exhibition game loss to Fort Hays State University Wednesday, 71-38.

The NCAA Division II Tigers are receiving votes in the WBCA coaches’ poll.

Fort Hays scored the game’s first seven points, and by the end of the first quarter, the Tigers held a 19-10 lead. Tristen Leiszler scored four points in the period to lead the Bluejay effort.

Nicole Decker made a three-pointer late in the second quarter to bring Tabor within 27-20, but the Tigers ended the half with a 5-0 run to hold a double-digit, 32-20 margin at intermission.

Fort Hays gained distance in the third quarter, outscoring Tabor, 18-4 for a 50-24 advantage at the final break.

Sydney Webb scored all of her team-high eight points in the fourth quarter, as Tabor scored 14 points to the Tigers’ 21 in the final period.

For the game, Tabor made 29 percent of its attempts from the field (17-for-59), compared with 44 percent for Fort Hays (31-for-70).

Fort Hays has faced two additional KCAC opponents this season. The Tigers secured a 125-31 win over Bethel and a 97-61 victory over Sterling in late November.

Southwestern—Tabor rolled to an 87-65 victory Tuesday in its final KCAC game before the holiday break.

The Bluejays took the lead following a back-and-forth first quarter in which Tabor jumped in front, 6-2, only to have Southwestern take the lead, 10-6. Tristen Leiszler and Amber Bonham made two-pointers after that to even the score, and a 5-2 run gave Tabor the lead by the end of the period, 15-12.

In the first three and a half minutes of the second quarter, Tabor outscored Southwestern 12-3. Taylor Deniston ignited the run with a two-pointer and capped it with a three-point basket at the 6:27 mark to give Tabor a 27-15 lead. With Tabor in front, 33-21, after Nicole Decker made a three, Southwestern scored 11 points to Tabor’s two to draw within 35-32 with 1:19 left in the half. Leiszler made the half’s final two baskets, giving Tabor a 39-32 margin at intermission.

The Bluejays built their advantage in the third quarter, 62-42 after Morgan Ediger scored at the 1:29 mark. Those were Tabor’s last points of the period, though, as the Moundbuilders scored their next seven points at the charity stripe for a 62-49 margin heading into the final period.

Tabor got those points back with a 7-0 run to start the fourth quarter, fueled by a pair of baskets by Kyli Webber. Southwestern did not get within 16, and the Bluejays enjoyed their largest margin at the end.

“We did some good things at times,” coach Shawn Reed said. “At times we didn’t. We didn’t want to foul, and there in the third quarter and the fourth quarter we fouled way too much, especially the end of the third quarter. They scored 16 points, I think, in the second half from the free-throw line after only scoring four in the first half, so we’ve got to do a better job on that throughout the whole game. But we moved the ball well. We got good looks. We had a lot of looks in the paint. We drove really well.”

Tabor shot 49 percent from the field in the game (33-for-67), compared to 40 percent for Southwestern (20-for-50).

Five Bluejays scored in double figures, led by Decker with 14, Ediger 13, Deniston 12, Leiszler 11 and Jurnee Reid 10.

Reed said he is pleased with his team heading into the break, taking into account that the Bluejays have only recently began fielding their team in its entirety. Tena Loewen completed Tabor’s volleyball season and did not play her first basketball game until Dec. 8.

“We’ve never been 10-3 at this point in the year, and two of our three losses were without three of our seniors, and then the loss against Friends, of course, we didn’t have our complete team,” Reed said. “I think now we’re starting to gel a little bit.”

The season thus far has revolved around change, and Reed said finding the team’s identity will be crucial moving forward.

“I think we’re all looking forward to taking a little bit of time off, deep breath, reset and then coming back and hopefully being able to stay healthy and really start to form some chemistry and identity.”

Coming—Tabor (7-1, 10-3), who ranks 20th nationally, will resume play by hosting Johnson & Wales in the holiday classic Friday Dec. 30 at 6 p.m. Tabor will play sixth-ranked Hastings in Hillsboro Saturday, Dec. 31 at 5 p.m.

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